The biggest complaint mistake you’ll ever make

Pavel/Shutterstock
Pavel/Shutterstock
If you have a gripe with a company — and let’s face it, at some point, everyone has a gripe with a company — here’s a cautionary tale about complaining.

It comes to us by way of Tracey Phillips. She had a problem with a hotel’s change policy. Specifically, every time she changed the date of her stay, the hotel insisted on charging her a fee, which is an increasingly common problem.

Instead of the grassroots approach to problem-solving, which I always recommend — in other words, starting with a real-time resolution at the lowest level, and working your way up — Tracey went straight to the top. She wrote an impassioned letter to the CEO, asking for a one-time exception to the hotel’s rules.

And, no surprise, she hasn’t received a response yet.
Read more “The biggest complaint mistake you’ll ever make”

Should I shame, sue – or take it straight to the top?

Kuzma/Shutterstock
Kuzma/Shutterstock
Ever want to see how customers screw up? Then spend a few hours looking over the shoulder of a consumer advocate.

Watch the emails come in — and learn.

“Need help getting a refund on a non-refundable airline ticket,” the subject line reads on a message I received a few minutes ago.

I get a lot of travel complaints.

“Yesterday, I went to ER due to heart palpitation and chest pain,” the passenger explained. He phoned his airline to ask for a refund due to his medical condition — an understandable request, coming from someone who’s an infrequent flier.
Read more “Should I shame, sue – or take it straight to the top?”

I can’t believe you wrote that!

Nicola/Shutterstock
Nicola/Shutterstock

I just wrapped up a review of my August emails — and wow, what an awesome collection of complaints!

To recap, one of my email addresses experienced a total meltdown, holding more than 10,000 messages in a queue since January. I explain everything in this post. And here’s a synopsis of the September emails.

It’s worth repeating that there are many ways of reaching me, including social media, my primary gmail address, [email protected], or phone.

I answer as promptly as possible — when the technology works.
Read more “I can’t believe you wrote that!”

The art of appeal: 5 tips that will turn a “no” into a “yes”

Qconcept/Shutterstock
Qconcept/Shutterstock
Teresa Ferris is mad.

She recently paid her airline a $100 “unaccompanied minor” fee when her son flew alone from Oakland to Los Angeles. It didn’t buy her much, she says.

“After he landed, there was no record on the computer of him flying as an unaccompanied minor,” Ferris remembers. “I couldn’t get the paperwork needed to pass security to meet him at the gate in time.”

Her son walked off the plane on his own and found his way to the baggage claim area alone. Ferris complained, and the airline refunded her $100 fee and offered her a $100 voucher toward a future flight.

“I’m disappointed, because I would have to spend money to get any additional compensation,” she says. “Am I stuck with it?”
Read more “The art of appeal: 5 tips that will turn a “no” into a “yes””

Is anyone really listening to your TSA complaints?

Champion Studio/Shutterstock
Champion Studio/Shutterstock
With only a few weeks left to leave your comments about the TSA’s controversial passenger screening methods, here’s a question worth asking: Is anyone listening?

If you said, “not really,” then maybe you know Theresa Putkey, a consultant from Vancouver. She had a run-in with a TSA agent recently after trying to opt out of a full-body scan, and sent a complaint letter to the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.

Here’s the form response from the TSA:
Read more “Is anyone really listening to your TSA complaints?”

Did Carnival do enough for these Destiny passengers?

gary yim / Shutterstock.com
gary yim / Shutterstock.com

Frank and Lucy Pirri are unhappy with their cruise on the Carnival Destiny, and they’re even more unhappy with how the cruise line responded to their complaint.

Sound familiar? Given Carnival’s recent Triumph troubles, it probably does.

But this wasn’t a short island-hopper with a bad ending. We’re talking 18 days in Europe, which was “poorly planned and poorly executed” from start to finish, says Frank Pirri.

How so? Let’s count the ways. (Warning: laundry list ahead.)
Read more “Did Carnival do enough for these Destiny passengers?”

A legitimate complaint wrapped inside a frivolous one — should I let this case go?

A rainy day at the airport. / Photo by Carib b – Flickr Creative Commons
I don’t normally dismiss cases reflexively, but when I hear someone complaining about special meals, it takes a lot for me to follow through and contact an airline on their behalf.
Read more “A legitimate complaint wrapped inside a frivolous one — should I let this case go?”

The Insider: How to complain to the TSA

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of the Insider series on managing the TSA when you travel. Here’s part one, part two and part three. As always, please send me any suggestions on topics or content I may have overlooked.

If you have a problem with the TSA, what’s your next step?
Read more “The Insider: How to complain to the TSA”

The travel industry moves to preempt customer complaints

When Jason Plott’s Western Caribbean cruise was delayed because of dense fog in Galveston, Tex., earlier this year, Carnival offered two possible resolutions before casting off: Either a full refund or an abridged cruise, which included an onboard credit and a discount off a future vacation.

Plott didn’t like either choice.

“It wasn’t enough,” says Plott, a director at a Lubbock, Tex., software firm. His family couldn’t return home early without incurring an airline change fee. And the shortened cruise skipped their favorite ports of call and the offer meant that they’d have to take another Carnival cruise — something they were reluctant to do.

Travelers are faced with decisions like Plott’s every day. Something goes wrong — a flight is delayed, a hotel room is flooded or a rental car breaks down — and they’re made an offer that they have to accept or reject on the spot.

Increasingly, those offers are being generated with the help of technology, either directly or indirectly. Carnival relied on external technologies such as its Twitter account to keep passengers updated, as well as internal systems to proactively deliver a set of identical offers to every passenger on Plott’s cruise before they boarded, according to Aly Bello, a company spokeswoman. “Most of the guests chose the option of sailing on the modified voyage,” she says.
Read more “The travel industry moves to preempt customer complaints”